How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
There's a man doesn't care about labels or genres. He's mainly interested in two things: horns and percussion. It follows that one type of music pleases him more than any other: Latin jazz. Song for Chico, by Arturo O'Farrill and The Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra, is right up this man's alley.
Pianist and music director O'Farrill, son of the late Chico O'Farrill, is a student of the Dizzy Gillespie School of Jazz Philosophy, a mind-set that says jazz is just a word, but the music that is called jazz can beand should bemany things, adopting various cultures and instruments. Having performed with Gillespie, Wynton Marsalis, Harry Belafonte and many others, O'Farrill began direction the band that preserved much of his father's music, Chico O'Farrill's Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra.
Song for Chico engages the listener right off the bat with Juan Tizol's "Caravan," a song popularized by Duke Ellington. This arrangement starts with the bass and percussion in an easy-going, strolling rhythm. Reynaldo Jorge begins the melody on trombone, followed by Michael Rodriguez on trumpet. Then the full band comes in, featuring a stellar horn section, which sets up a series of solos by Ivan Renta on tenor sax, Jorge and Rodriguez. After each gets two turns, all three engage in three-part free for all, while the rest of the band continues to underscore.
The band pays tribute to the late Tito Puente with a lively cover of his "Picadillo." O'Farrill leads on piano, backed mostly by the bass and percussion. Mario Rivera solos on tenor sax, setting up the full horn section. Rodriguez then comes in with a grinding trumpet solo before the song's conclusion.
The title song, composed and arranged by drummer Dafnis Pietro, features Bobby Porcelli on alto sax, Rodriguez, and Vince Cherico on drums. Porcelli's frenetic notes are complemented by the horn section, but Rodriguez is more subtly underscored by bass, piano and percussion. Then Cherico gets the spotlight, supported by the horns.
The Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra is solid throughout. O'Farrill shows his skill as both a leader and a musician. Although he composed only one of the eight tracks, the music is performed with a sense of ownership, making for an album that's sure to please anyone with "horns and percussion" as the main criteria for good music.
Track Listing: Caravan; Such Love; Picadillo; Song for Chico; Starry Nights; Cuban Blues; Humility; The Journey.
Personnel: Arturo O'Farrill: piano; Michael Mossman: lead trumpet; Jim Seely: trumpet; John Walsh: trumpet; Michael Rodriguez: trumpet; Reynaldo Jorge: lead trombone; Gary Valente: trombone; Luis Bonilla: trombone; Douglas Purviance: bass trombone; Bobby Porcelli: lead alto saxophone; Erica von Kleist: alto saxophone; Mario Rivera: tenor saxophone; Ivan Renta: tenor saxophone; Pablog Calogero: baritone saxophone; Ruben Rodriguez: electric bass, baby bass; Vince Cherico: drums, timbales; Jimmy Delgado: timbales, bongo, bell; Tony Rosa: tumbadora.